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Sharing in a good cause

What was once an old, dusty bowling alley is on its way to becoming the Share Fromhold Service Center, offering much-needed office and client space to the nonprofit Share, which serves the needs of Vancouver’s growing homeless and hungry population.

Share has been helping the community since 1979 and is working on completing its newly renovated space, the Share Fromhold Service Center, located in central Vancouver at 2306 NE Andresen Road.

Share’s expansion began in 2004 with a conversation between Diane McWithey, executive director for Share, and the late state representative Bill Fromhold. McWithey gave Fromhold a tour of Share’s facilities downtown and, at the end of the tour, Fromhold agreed there was not enough space to meet Share’s current and future needs.

“I have staff now that are tripled up in offices but, back then, they were doubled up in offices. In 10 years, our entire Share ASPIRE staff went from one staff member to 11,” said McWithey.

“The number of clients has considerably increased as well,” she added.

Even before construction began, McWithey said, the poorly heated bowling alley was still being put to use. The 22,000-square-foot warehouse space housed donations for Share’s Backpack Program, which initially handed out 75 food-filled packs weekly to schoolchildren on free or reduced lunches. The program has expanded and now offers backpacks to 1,300 children at 66 schools to help feed their struggling families each weekend that school is in session.

The ongoing project is being completed in phases. So far, $5.25 million of the $5.4 million needed has been raised and, as of Nov. 2011, two of the three construction phases have been completed. Phase 2 includes the Northwest Natural Products/Gummy Vites Backpack Building Area, which has 5,430 square feet of warehouse space for donations to the Share Backpack Program and its Holiday Cheer Program, including an adopt-a-family initiative and food boxes during the holidays.

The final phase, with a price tag of $150,000, will provide a day shelter for winter hospitality overflow guests, a volunteer center, classrooms and administration offices. Moving the administrative offices to the new space will free up much-needed shelter space downtown. Renovations are underway now on the final phase, and the doors are expected to open in Jan. 2013.

“I have been working on this project now in excess of five years and it’s kind of surreal that it’s finally coming to fruition,” said McWithey.

“I’m looking forward to settling into the evaluation of our current programs, as well as doing some strategic planning around the new building,” she said.

Donations to Share’s Capital Campaign for the remaining $150,000 can be made by purchasing a personalized brick paver for $200 up to $10,000. Personalized room names are another way to give. Visit www.sharevancouver.org for contribution information and updates on the ongoing project.

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